STUDY NOTES: ROMANS 9
The subject of grace and election is a tricky one that raises questions: Does God have favourites? Will he select one group of people for salvation over another group? Are some destined for destruction? Can a person change his/her destiny? Apostle Paul explores the subject by drawing parallels between a craftsman & his creation and by highlighting God’s relationship with the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac and Moses. In reading Paul’s thoughts, I see the picture of a Father who loves all his children. He is long-suffering towards those who reject him. For reasons best known to him, he also selects “favourites” from among them for particular assignments from time to time. It’s a Father’s privilege:
“What shall we conclude then? Is there injustice upon God’s part? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion (pity) on whom I will have compassion. So then [God’s gift] is not a question of human will and human effort, but of God’s mercy. [It depends not on one’s own willingness nor on his strenuous exertion as in running a race, but on God’s having mercy on him.]”
Romans 9: 14-16 AMP
“What if God, although fully intending to show [the awfulness of] His wrath and to make known His power and authority, has tolerated with much patience the vessels (objects) of [His] anger which are ripe for destruction?”
Romans 9:22 AMP
Grace and sovereignty are uncomfortable concepts but they go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. Man cannot receive a grace he is unworthy of, yet begrudge God’s right to choose him. Apostle Paul says a way to grasp the two concepts is to imagine the relationship between a potter and clay. The purpose of pottery lies in the heart of the creator. He gives it shape. It takes humility for a man to realise that his entire life serves another’s purpose. It’s not an easy concept to swallow. Without sovereignty and grace, there would be no basis for non-Jews to participate in a covenant that was originally between the patriarch, Abraham and God. In essence, we’re interlopers.
Knowing we have been freely invited to God’s kingdom, it is possible to enjoy a vibrant relationship with him through grace. Those who insist on earning their way through works will find themselves repeatedly tripping over a stumbling block. It is an exercise in futility.
This is the reference:
“Because [they (Israelites) pursued it] not through faith, relying [instead] on the merit of their works [they did not depend on faith but on what they could do]. They have stumbled over the Stumbling Stone.”
Romans 9:32 AMP
I would like to say something about God’s kingdom. He has set certain principles in motion on earth. If you sow, you will reap. If you’re passionate about something and set your heart towards it with utmost conviction, you will positively influence your circumstances. In other words, you will exercise faith. These principles can be exploited by Christians and non Christians alike. I think the relationship God wants mankind to have with him is one of love & friendship, not one where we manipulate principles to get our hearts’ desires. If you develop a personal relationship with God, your needs will be the least of your worries.
Imagine you have cancer and tell your earthly dad. He would do everything within his power to ensure you get the best treatment so you can get well. He would move mountains and call in every favour. He would beg, borrow and hold findraisers to ensure the money for the treatment is available. He wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about you. Your condition would occupy him everyday and he’d stand by you throughout the treatment. Now, imagine your heavenly father. The principle of “works” tells you that before God can heal you, you first have to do 30 days of fasting and prayer. You must beg and plead. You must get your Pastor and church members to beg and plead too. Not only that, you must spend all you have on modern medicine as well. That doesn’t sound like the response of a Father. In the second scenario I painted, you’re the one doing the heavy lifting, not him.
Many people know “God”. Many know the Law and the dos and don’ts of the principles God has set in motion on earth. Few people know the loving “Father”.
This is what the heavenly Father says,
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:11 NKJV.
I believe God wants to have a relationship with mankind – where each person truly connects with him instead of relating to him only as a God who provides their needs.